Prometheus: A Journey to the Stars
By Captain J.P. Müller, Systems Republic Navy, Earth Naval Academy
Originally serialized in 11 installments in 2252, all rights reserved
Chapter 1 – Introduction
Captain’s log, February 5th 2184… this will be my final entry as captain of Prometheus. We have exited hyperspace five minutes ago near Pluto orbit and are on a save trajectory home to Earth on sub-light engines. I told Chief Helmsman Harris to take us by all the major habitats on the way there. Anything to keep the inevitable a bit further in the future, but still, by Friday we will be docking at Earth Dock Alpha to decommission. I have commanded this ship for close to twelve years now and in this time, I have seen so many things that are still hard to describe in as many words, things I still can’t believe I haven’t just dreamed it. Twelve years. Part of me feels like it’s been the blink of an eye, yet another thinks it has been a lifetime. We’ve had some highs… many lows, too, but I prefer to look at the positives. Next week there will be a dedication ceremony when the ship is turned into a museum, all the important alien ambassadors will be there, most of which we’ve helped make first contact with. Makes me proud to have been there. I still need to write some commendations for the crew. A lot of them will go on to make fast careers now that they’re building a whole new class of exploration ships to follow in our footsteps. Good. That’s how it should be, there should always be someone out there looking for the strange unknown. Our journey was cut short in a way, it’s only fair that a few of the crew will get to go on. Still… I won’t complain, exploration is all fun and good and I would have preferred to do nothing much else out there but as we’ve seen over the last decade we have enemies out there too. Shouldn’t stop us from going out there but I’d be a fool to ignore it or pretty up the picture.
I have been called many things over the years whenever we made our way back home. Don’t know if hero should be one of them, but that’s what they have decided to call me. God knows I don’t need my ego stroked anymore… Thought I was going somewhere with this. I dunno. Part of me is just happy that it’s all over, that’s all… oh yeah, was nothing… just glad that I don’t have to play the hero anymore after the last few events. Whatever…
I wanted to start this feed out with what might seem like the ending to a fiction feed. Why? Because this is history and history does not have spoiler tags. In this day and age – which, let’s be honest, has lasted for two centuries and more at this point – of vids and fiction taking over duties from historians to convey facts to the general population, the reader of this feed should be under no false understanding of what he is getting himself into. This is not a thriller or a historical novel. Prometheus was launched 82 years ago and decommissioned 70 years ago, it rests in orbit around Luna as a museum ship. Part of this feed was, with great thanks to the curator and former colleague of mine Commander Dr. Gwen Hobbs, Terran Alliance Spacefleet, partially written on board the historic ship herself. Prometheus’ captain, Rear Admiral ret. Kate Connors lives in seclusion on O’Neil Station 9 near Jupiter, most of the crew is still alive and can thus provide first person accounts of what happened but often didn’t for reasons that will become clear throughout the feed. I am under no delusion that people come to my work to hear an enthralling story about glorious explorers boldly going where no human has ever been, even though that my previous employer, Spacefleet itself, would probably like to portray it this way because it bolsters recruiting numbers.
Still, compromises have to be made even in self-published history feed or as whatever you might end up reading this so for this purpose I have adopted this casual writing style as not to scare away the audience which relies on me and my colleagues to inform and teach them about their history. This is meant for the general public, not my fellow academics. Academia is incestuous enough as it is. I am under no illusion that I am breaking any new ground here, but sometimes you need a good bricklayer to make the average person come to the well. Next, Mark Twain once noted, that reality is stranger than fiction because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. As such this feed might ironically be more interesting than fiction, since it contains both the comically absurd and the absurdly serious. But there will also be words with more than two syllables so that might be a mark against it for some. There are twists and turns, laughter, but also a lot of me standing on my soap box shouting into the ether.
Many books and feeds have been written over the years on humanity’s journey to the stars, but until now the archives have been closed to historians for reasons of national security. It is, however, the luck of the modern historian that the Protection of State Secrets Act of 2094 allows us a quicker glimpse at all sides of the medallion much closer than our predecessors were able to. As such this feed also indulges an old military historian like myself who has grown up with the romanticized accounts of the content of this account. We all have heard the stories of the starship Prometheus, its valiant captain and heroic crew, who single-handedly saved humanity more than once from annihilation and went where no human had gone before. Humanity’s first deep space mission.
It is not arrogance on the part of my profession to now call our childhood stories less than accurate. Even as a naval historian at the service’s own university, it is our duty to the truth and accuracy, and respect for our own tradition that tasks us with being our own harshest critics.
As already mentioned, as is the nature with top secret documents, it takes decades for them to be declassified for reasons of national security and the PSSA, something that even a socialist utopia like ours has yet to abolish. The cogs may turn slowly but eventually they do turn and as it stands new information about this period in history have made it possible for the Naval Academy itself to commission this feed of mine to properly explain the bizarre history of the Navy and how the Prometheus program came to pass. The actual case files and declassified documents will be interspersed with my own ramblings and explanations on the matter as to allow the sources to speak for themselves for one thing, and for neither to intrude upon the other. So join me on this little experiment of mine in cross-media presentation as I ask the question: Did Prometheus have a significant impact on history and why was its story quickly mythologized?
My colleagues may forgive a traditionally trained historian for selling out with this feed for the general audience.
Chapter 2 – First Contact
The story, as was taught in school books until this year, was one of remarkable coincidence. In the year 2072 Nobel prize winning engineer and StarExpress chairperson Dr. Louise Jiwe piloted her privately constructed spaceship Prometheus, the first of a line of ships to bear the name. For those who don’t remember their history, Prometheus was the man who, in Greek mythology, had stolen the fire from the gods and given it to humanity. Dr. Jiwe considered the name fitting, given that, should her tests be successful, she would open the stars for humanity with her newly constructed hyperspace engine. The science behind the engine, essentially cheating the laws of physics by creating a bubble to shield the ship from the effects of Einstein space, having already been theoretically proposed five years before and having gotten her the Nobel prize for her work, had so far only worked in simulation. Since she couldn’t ask anyone to take up the dangerous task she wasn’t able to take on herself, Jiwe piloted the craft itself from Earth orbit. At 09:34 GMT on January 23rd Jiwe activated the ship’s’ small reactor and engaged the hyperspace bubble. Her test flight through hyperspace only took her ten minutes but she exited hyperspace 10.000 kilometers away from Mars orbit. The test was a success.
Ten days later, after Jiwe had made the return journey and been given a hero’s welcome on Earth, a spaceship exited hyperspace outside of Earth orbit and contacted the United Nations in a clear English translation of a speech that would go down in history:
“People of Earth, do not be alarmed by our presence. We are the Vaude, we come from a star many light-years away from here. Our long-range scanners detected a hyperspace flight from within your star system. We rejoice in welcoming Humanity into the galactic community of enlightened species. We come in peace and offer friendship.”
Within one-year Vaude ambassadors and human representatives met on Space Station I, a quickly constructed neutral meeting ground in upper Earth orbit. Friendly communications were established and humanity, with the help of the Vaude, began repairing the damages done to Earth in three centuries of war and economical exploitation. The Vaude established diplomatic ties with the United Nations, the precursor of United Earth Government (short: EarthGov), which was itself the intermediary to today’s Terran Alliance, and have remained here ever since. It would, however, take another one hundred years for humanity to leave the Sol System and make its way to the stars.
Within one hundred years, humanity consolidated its political power into EarthGov and established colonies and mining outposts throughout the Solar System. I would be negligent at this point to fail to mention the creation of a navy in 2100. With Vaude help, humanity expanded the original Prometheus program to design a new, faster engine and ship to go out to the stars at some point. It would take another 70 years but the end result was Prometheus, the fastest and biggest ship Earth had ever built, only possible through cooperation and a century of further innovation and experimentation.
Of course, new revelations brought forth by the Vaude government in response to our lifting of the PSSA have shed new light on popular conjecture on what is often called the Human Century, despite every other century in human history having been a human century just by default.
From the Vaude Archives on First Contact with Earth, translations and cultural approximations provided by the Foreign Ministry:
To the Office of the Secretary for Extra-Vaude Affairs:
Mr. Secretary, I regret to inform you that the discoveries about the advanced species “Human” from planetary system “Sol” have been premature. While the captain of our exploration ship did get confirmation to proceed in initiating First Contact Protocols after surveying the species’ first successful unaided hyperspace flight, further research into the species has led us to believe that their societal evolutionary levels were as high as their technological, but this is not the case. After first contact was initiated it was found out that FTL parameters were fulfilled by a private individual financed with private resources. No government was involved. A planetary governing body does exist in its infancy, though a previous attempt has already failed three of their years ago. As ambassador to Sol III it is my duty to inform you that we should have vetted the Humans much more thoroughly than we did. The damage we did, however, is already taking form. Though the first effort was a private one, the budget for a big deep space exploration project has already been approved. We suspect that within ten Earth years the Humans will be able to mount a deep space expedition. As one of the sub-groups a “Texan” had told me during a meeting yesterday, to say “howdy” to the “folks back home”. I cannot more strongly ask for the species to be quarantined for as a long as possible under the usual regulations until an ambassadorial team can minimize the damage and make sure that the Human do not kill themselves in deep space. It would be an embarrassment to our record. For centuries our Isolation Directive has kept underdeveloped species from advancing too fast. We cannot add a blemish to our record with these humans.
Rear Admiral Pavelic, Human Expeditionary Mission
Ironically, the Vaude never had an equivalent of the PSSA in their constitution and this information was publicly available to any Vaude citizen since the First Contact of 2072. For them, humanity has always been the slightly backwards galactic neighbor. A good person most of the time but in those times of trouble one is glad that they live 100 light-years down the road. Documents revealed as part of the Prometheus Files have, however, since confirmed that it was a deal struck with the administration of 1st Earth Prime Minister Zhang Jing that lead the Vaude to keep the records away from the human public until such a time that EarthGov itself was ready to reveal the information to the public. As the Vaude have always valued stability over anything, this information never left the Vaude Primarchy. Since no human has ever been allowed access to one of their planetary archives, it was not hard to reach total communications blackout for all of us in this regard. It is one of those examples for why the job of the archivist is often unfairly belittled. Archivists are, after all, the ones who collect, vet, and decide who can access information. Further cooperation with the Vaude and other alien species on this front should be of upmost priority going forward.
For many people this still seems strange to believe since the late 21st to mid-22nd century, the “premature 22nd century” as called by historian Tam Young, is often regarded as one of the best periods in human history, only second to the period beginning with the launch of Prometheus. Believing historical fiction and vids of and about the period, one would think the founders of our nation were mythological figures. Prime Minister Zhang, Dr. Jiwe, Secretary Cooper, Leader of the Opposition Ghanji, Admiral Roberts, a quintet of great individuals who single-handedly created the first united human society and created a lasting alliance with the Vaude.
Mystification is a dangerous double-edged blade for a society. It can quickly get out of hand after all once you turn men and women into mystical figures. The founders of EarthGov were people. Intelligent and resourceful people, who knew better than to leave something as crucial as the future of EarthGov and Earth itself up to a public unaware of the greater picture. People forget how fragile EarthGov was in comparison to the Terran Alliance. It was only three years since the Articles of Unification had been dissolved. The United Nations in their ultimate form had failed, too weak a federal government for a planet whose economy was in in a planetary-wide recession and natural resources inefficiently used to rebuild.
These times lie in the past for us now but just because they are in the past does not mean that the decisions made back then do not continue to influence us or can give us a better understanding of what our ancestors had to go through, what tough decisions had to be made. It is always hard to believe that the Founders would deceive the public into believing in Human Exceptionalism, but for all intents and purposes the drive to believe that humanity had been chosen to take the next step in its development, that it was ready to go out among the stars and be part of a galactic community was all that held the planet together in those early years. The idea that one intrepid scientist with a private company to back her spoke for the entirety of humanity. Contemporaries like humorist writer Elo Temlin commented on the narrative the moment it was brought forth. Two years after First Contact she wrote:
The term Human Exceptionalism is a contradiction in itself. As we live in a universe with at least one other intelligent species which came to us by way of the same technology we hold up as means to make ourselves bigger than we are speaks volumes about our collective mental health.
She was not alone in her expressions. Comedian Chidi Al-Jamil offered up the following in his 2079 stand-up tour:
The only thing exceptional about human exceptionalism is the Vaude didn’t cap our asses the moment we started spouting that nonsense. It’s the kinda nonsense Ronald Reagan came up with after Alzheimer’s got him by the ass.
The fact that both comments are not the height of comedy or wit that these two individuals were known for in their day should give a glimpse into how serious a situation they realized this theory was. From a quirk pushed hard by EarthGov in its early years in a hockey throwback to the days of Ronald Reagan, as Al-Jamil pointed out nearly a hundred-fifty years ago, to becoming the center of our Manifest Destiny. American exceptionalism. Britannia rule the waves. Am deutschen Wesen soll die Welt genesen. There have been many instances of one people putting themselves at the peak of human achievement. One would have thought that the moment humanity united as one race, one people, this idea would be considered obsolete, but as the Austrian historian Elli Lehmann noted in her History of First Contacts:
Human history is marked by the clash of civilizations and the tribal mentality. Us versus Them. As our understanding of Us grew, our definition of Them grew smaller. First Contact with the Vaude cemented once and for all our understanding of Us but in doing so lay the road for a resurrection of Them.
One thing that historians and students of history learn in their first semester is that one should never judge the decisions of a historical person with hindsight. The problem of foreknowledge, the fallacy of prescience. Whatever you might want to call it, the concept is one that, despite its simplicity, is often a major factor in uninformed or hasty interpretations of historical events. The idea that the people hammering out the Asia Minor Agreement, The Jovian Accords, the Versailles Treaty, or the Rights of Man and Machine would be aware of the terrible consequences of their treaties when they had other lines of thought or couldn’t even imagine events like the Cold War, the Great Depression of 1929, the Android Rights Marches, and multiple colonial brushfires on the moons of Jupiter, from exacerbating the original problems with the agreements come to mind.
Early EarthGov was not the towering colossus that the Terran Alliance is today, the governing body of all of humanity across local space and major driving force within the Local Bubble. Early EarthGov came dangerously close to being another League of Nation, an early version of the United Nations that preceded EarthGov, so ineffectual that it was nothing more than an object of prestige. Earth was still reeling from the effects of the Resource Wars and the Global Depression of 2065. With an economy still rebuilding without clearly knowing what it was building towards and a populous starved for hope, First Contact coming when it did is one of the great chances of human history and the politicians knew to grasp it with both hands and not let go. As Prime Minister Zhang wrote in his private journal:
I have only met with the Vaude ambassador twice now, but he is a deceptive being. Very smart. Cunning. You don’t get to be top dog by being nice, I suppose. I think he knows that humanity is similar. That seems to concern him. Don’t want to call it fright, but there clearly is more to this. I still don’t know what our future will hold, but humanity must stand united against any threat from the stars or any rival. As friendly as the Vaude seem, humanity has to become strong enough to stand up to them as equals. Only a position of strength will impress the galaxy at large. We need to show these aliens whose wearing the big boy pants in this region of space. Even if the Vaude turn out to be as genuine down the line as they appear now, maybe the next species will not. One stick breaks easily, a bundle less so. If we do this right, they will speak about this period as the Age of Humanity.
Whatever our thoughts on Human Exceptionalism, a topic best discussed in a longer work than this, like Shikoba’s Meditations on Exceptionalism or Arendse’s Fatal Flaws Of The 21st Century, we cannot deny its impact on planet Earth and Terrankind all over the colonies after we had found out we were not alone in the galaxy.
Isolated as we were from 2072 until 2172, the Vaude did try to guide us towards a gradual but steady advancement in our development, though one that would keep us contained within our solar system. As was part of their containment policy for new species, they did not provide us with new technology, proving that parts of misguided philosophies like Human Exceptionalism could be true: within a century from launch of our first Faster-Than-Light test ship to the launch of our Deep Space Explorer, humanity expanded outwards from Earth in what is still the greatest public works effort in all of our history. While we never used the FTL engine to leave our solar system in those years, its usefulness for solar exploration cannot be overstated. Human colonies had of course already existed on Mars, but for the first time interplanetary travel become, in the words of speculative fiction writers, “casual”. Taking the Earth-Mars route in 60 minutes, most of which included transit to a space elevator or rocket and security checks, was not uncommon from the 2130s onwards. Not to get ahead of ourselves, but we need to remember that before the hyperdrive, even using our fastest ion engines, our exploration ships needed months to reach Mars. I remember gawking at my mother when I was a child and she told me that there used to be entire departments at space agencies calculating the best routes and slingshot maneuvers around planets and moons to give our ships a boost to their destination, the same way that a sailing ship might seem impossibly primitive to a child born in the age of the steamship.
It is often said that the hyperspace engine was the greatest transport revolution since the commercialization of air travel after the end of World War II. I would compare it to the invention of the locomotive as well.
If we compare our solar system for a moment to a stretch of land on Earth then this comparison should become much clearer: a human can only travel so far by foot, bike, or horse, his movement is limited. In his personal world, the universe might as well only stretch 20 kilometers into any direction. Give him the ability to travel much faster though and on good roads and you open up his world to the limits of his imagination. Within one generation an economy of scale was able to turn a one-off racing ship like Dr. Jiwe’s FTL prototype into a fleet of government and privately-owned starships able to travel from Earth to Mars in ten minutes. Not months, not weeks, not days, not hours. Minutes. If it weren’t for the cost and upkeep of the fusion reactors necessary to open a hyperspace window and maintain it, we would speak of personal and daily commuting distance. This is why I brought up the locomotive, or its modern equivalent the hyperloop: nobody owns a private locomotive but travel in one is pretty cheap when properly subsidized and routes between popular destinations plenty. Of course, space travel remains more expensive than planetary transport of any regard, which is why the comparison to air travel is often made, but the rise of budget airlines in the early 21st century should somewhat break that metaphor. But whatever transport revolution you might want to compare it to, it truly was a revolution. And it changed everything for our species. Before, a stay on Mars was considered a lifelong commitment, now it was a commute for the affluent and a tour of duty for middle class workers. The security of knowing one would be able to return to Earth in an affordable way like one used to take a plane, train, or automobile, opened up new waves of colonization. The risk to reward ratio had finally leveled out to a point where taking a shot at space seemed viable. Colonies on Mars, resource mining in the asteroid belt and the Jovian moons, the construction of O’Neil cylinders as artificial habitats to spread Terrankind as wide as possible. There is, after all, a reason we still call it the Age of Human Exceptionalism. And eventually we used it to create Ford Station, Earth Dock Alpha, the Prometheus Complex, and with it the Deep Space Program. That is where things, as an old historian saying goes, got complicated.
 Official Ship’s Log of Prometheus by Captain Kate Connors, 05/02/2184, Naval Records 2184 Vol. 4, pp. 223.
 Side note: the museum is currently closed down for restoration purposes, with official reports stating that 47% of original materials used will be left in the ship after works are completed later next year.
 Side note: If you read this any time after 2252 it will be the Federal Systems Republic Spacefleet.
 Angelica Azikiwe: Life and Times of An Immortal Celebrity. The Stories Behind The Greatest Story, pp. 764-769.
 Update late 2252: well, so much for bias since I just quit my teaching position at the Academy.
 Side note: During the mid-21st century, the United Kingdom of England and Wales raised the 30-years-rule to 50, with many nations following shortly thereafter based on the classified documents rule-of-75 previously in use in many Western nation.. The rule has stayed in place until the PSSA was ratified by both houses of the Terran Alliance some fifty years later. For further notes on the subject compare Emmerich Emmerson: The Price of Freedom. The Public History of the Intelligence Services in the late 21st century.
 Louise Jiwe: A Small Story About Myself. Thank God I’m Dead!, pp. 111-129.
 Official Vaude Communique 23/01/2072 initiating First Contact with Humanity, in: Webster and Morrison (Ed.): Terran Diplomatic Correspondences Vol. 1, pp. 1-2.
 Side note: Space Station I is likely now better known as Gagarin Station and has since been refurbished and enlarged to house 100.000 inhabitants plus people in transit. More about Gagarin Station can be found on the official station feed as nothing but technical manuals have so far been written on the subject matter. It is now up for me to say that technical manuals are boring, but if you don’t want to believe me, feel free to suffer through them yourself.
 Many repairs to the planet during the 20s through 40s having been undone during the series of conflicts in the 60s and 70s. Blame terrorism and the last gasps of the modern nation state.
 Updated Nov. 2254: An interesting example of revisionist history in its own right. With the end of the Vaude-Terran Cold War, we now know that the Vaude were barely 80 years more advanced in space-faring technology than we were. I believe what the Vaude pulled with us is called a “Bavarian Fire Drill” in some circles.
 Rear Admiral Pavelic to Secretary Masaryk, not dated, in: Andric: Terran-Vaude Relations 2072-2112. The First Forty Years, pp. 51-52.
 Emmerich Emmerson: The Price of Freedom. The Public History of the Intelligence Services in the late 21st century, pp. 742-745.
Some historians have also claimed that it remained accessible for purposes of propaganda, i.e. diminishing us in front of their population given barely one century head-start compared to us.
 If we disregard our 57-year-long Cold War with them and their treatment of the Vanvaude. Which we shouldn’t but any First Contact not ending with gunfire is clearly a success.
 Tomas Andric: Terran-Vaude Relations 2072-2112. The First Forty Years, pp. 251-257.
 Tam Young: “Deliberations on Grandeur”, in: Jonathan Ulysses: Festschrift für Herbert Cheng, pp. 27-41.
 Elo Temlin: One Last Wank, pp. 7.
 Chidi Al-Jamil: Give Me More Money For Drugs, 21:23 to 21:49.
 Maybe I just don’t get it and it’s the height of comedy on Ganymede.
 Elli Lehmann: History of First Contacts. Terran Foreign Policy in the 22nd Century, pp. 93.
 United States of America vs Soviet Union in the 20th century. Not our recent one.
 Side note: it is quite humorous to read these predictions these days. If you ever need a good laugh read Tamlova’s reasons for the return of libertarianism as a serious contender in federal politics in her article on influence of the Rights of Man and Machine.
 Zhang Jing: What I Tell You Now That I Have Passed. A Posthumous Confession, pp. 98-99.
 Meditations on Exceptionalism and Fatal Flaws of the 21st century can be found for free to download on the University of Cambridge XXX’s website below the amateur porn cams.
 Including the Great Wall of New Mexico.
 J.J. Jay: Transportation Throughout The Times. An Alliterative Account, pp. 117-129.
 Nigel Amari: One Small Step. The History of Air Mars, pp. 9-27.
 Rani Farrage: “Musk’s Wet Dream”, in: Farrage and Rutledge (Ed.): Infrastructure And Its Influence on Society 1989-2150, pp. 112.
 Side note: Understatement of the day.